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Your Inner-Mean-Girl is a Perfectionist

comparison criticism negative mindset negative thoughts perfectionism shame Jan 21, 2023
woman in blue shirt sitting on a rock formation during daytime by Sandra Martins

As a child of the 1980s, my image of perfectionism growing up was the quintessential image of the blond cheerleader. She was a trope commonly found in movies and TV shows, usually the love interest of the lead male character, who appeared woefully uncool next to her. 

But this character’s typical downfall? Meanness.

Often this character appeared to have it all together; perfect manicure, perfect body, perfect cheers for the winning football team. But ultimately she usually was mean to others, criticizing their clothes and their “uncoolness.” And if we got a deeper look into her struggles? There was usually an eating disorder, self-hatred and a strong desire to avoid shame at all costs.

What’s interesting however, especially for those of us who grew up with that is we may have de-identified ourselves with the word perfectionism because we never were “perfect” like she was. We didn’t ever appear (or at least have a self-concept) that we were perfect, so we didn’t describe ourselves that way. And yet, we may still have that same mindset, that same desire to appear to have it all together, that desire to avoid shame and be always seen as cool, easy-going, or approachable.

But as we become more dependent on the habit of perfectionism, wherever it shows up for us (charting, rounds, being afraid to say “I don’t know,” health habits, etc), we often become harder and harder on ourselves, and ultimately on those around us. A natural consequence of driving yourself hard is putting high expectations on others, judging them when they don’t meet your standards, and often micro-managing or refusing to delegate.

And as we push to accomplish more, we become less happy, less joyful, and certainly less grateful.

Consider how this shows up for so many women physicians: The label of “bitchy,” “bossy,” or “toxic.” And when this happens, not only does it limit our ability to get ahead because of these social costs, it also harms our effectiveness because we are unwilling to delegate and thus doing work that would be better done by others.

This can seem untrue to many of us who wrestle with this. “Why would I delegate when they do crappy work?” But let’s step back and ask ourselves if we were clear and kind in our instructions? Did we give instructions? Did we coach for performance? Or did we criticize and say “ugh, never mind,” and do it ourselves.  Just as parents can struggle to teach kids how to do chores, we as leaders are often impatient with those who need guidance and coaching in order to work with us effectively.

Certainly, there are many layers to how perfectionism impacts us as leaders of a team, AND many challenges to having reliable staff members on our teams given the current state of many clinics and hospitals. But, if you are wanting to make a change, to have more help and support, whatever that looks like in your setting, and you’ve got a habit of perfectionism, it’s time to let go of your inner mean-girl cheerleader parts. For reals.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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